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Sunday, December 10, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Man Barely Survives Oilfield Fireball

BISMARCK, N.D. (CN) - Oilfield bosses sent a worker into an "extrahazardous and abnormally dangerous" situation that erupted into a fireball and explosion that will leave him disfigured for life, the man claims in court.

Arjuna Zerr, a truck driver for nonparty Summit Oilfield Services, sued four companies and a company owner on Tuesday in Federal Court.

He was sent to an oil site to pump a highly volatile hydrocarbon compound from the site's mud tanks into his tanker truck in September 2013.

The defendants "failed to warn Mr. Zerr of the extrahazardous and abnormally dangerous work environment they had created" by leaving tanks open while volatile chemicals were being pumped, according to the complaint.

By the time his truck tank was nearly full, the air had become so laden with hydrocarbons that the smallest spark could set the air on fire - and it did.

"Employees of defendant Hurricane heard the truck engine and instructed Mr. Zerr to go to his truck and turn off the engine, directing Mr. Zerr into the heart of the impending cataclysm rather than warning him to seek safety," the complaint states.

"The air surrounding the mud tank was so laden with volatile, combustible and flammable hydrocarbon vapors that the vapors were being ingested by the truck engine," according to the complaint. "An instant later, the vapor-laden air exploded into flame, the mud tank and truck caught fire, the truck engine and mud tank exploded. Mr. Zerr was caught in an intense fireball that surged the length of the truck. The entire area was engulfed in flames."

The Hurricane employees escaped, but Zerr suffered severe burns to his body that will leave him permanently disfigured.

He sued WPX Energy Williston, Hurricane and Air Swabbing Services, Wellsite Solutions, Ivan Webster LLC, and Ivan Webster.

He seeks damages for medical expenses, negligence, premises liability, negligent hiring and retention, retained control of operations and well-site safety, and leave to amend the complaint to seek punitive damages.

He is represented by David Maring.

According to bankrate.com, an insurance website, truck driving and natural resource and mining work are the ninth and tenth most dangerous jobs in the United States.

The most dangerous jobs, in descending order, are fishing, logging, piloting, garbage collecting, roofing, structural steel and iron work, construction helping, farming and ranching, then truck driving and natural resources.

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